Early detection of breast cancer offers women the best possible chance for optimal treatment. As with many cancers, breast cancer is more easily managed and treated when it is still small. To ensure early detection of breast cancer, women should educate themselves about appropriate screening and breast health care.
Why is Early Detection of Breast Cancer Important?
When breast cancer is diagnosed before it has spread or grown too large, it is more likely to be treated successfully. Five-year relative survival rates in women diagnosed with early stage breast cancers rise above 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
However, this number drops to 22 percent in women diagnosed with late stage breast cancer. You can increase your chances for early detection of breast cancer through regular screening and awareness of breast cancer signs and symptoms.
Recommendations for Early Detection of Breast Cancer
All adult women should be proactive about maintaining their breast health. In most women, annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40 is appropriate. Annual screening mammograms can detect cancers that are imperceptible during clinical breast exam and breast self-exam.
Women in their 20s and 30s should receive clinical breast exam every three years. Beginning at age 40, clinical breast exam should be performed once every year (in addition to an annual screening mammogram). Breast self-exam is also an option for women in their 20s and older. If you choose to perform breast self-exam, discuss technique options with your physician.
For certain women, we recommend supplemental screening (such as breast MRI or breast ultrasound) in addition to an annual mammogram. Breast MRI is appropriate for some women at intermediate- to high-risk for breast cancer. Women may consider risk assessment to inform a decision about supplemental screening. Women with certain risk factors are more appropriate candidates for supplemental screening. These include:
- Personal history of breast cancer.
- Family history of breast cancer.
- Genetic mutation associated with increased risk for breast cancer.
- Personal history of radiation exposure to the chest wall.
- Dense breast tissue.
Women should be aware of risk factors to help them choose an approach that enables early detection of breast cancer. At Breastlink, we are committed to working with patients to prepare them for screening and to develop a breast health care plan. If you would like to learn more about early detection of breast cancer or risk assessment, please contact us.